A Chat With Colin About Covenant
By Colin Odom
BTC: It has been such a pleasure to be able to visit with Colin this week as he prepared for this stop on his blog tour. I first ran across Colin, back in the glory days of JAFF online, at Hyacinth Gardens. Male authors were rare, and he was recommended to me by several including my good friend Linnea.
He is now a Meryton author and has recently published ‘A Covenant of Marriage’, an intriguing spin on the original Pride and Prejudice. I know you would enjoy his book and I hope you will enjoy his personal story here at Darcyholic Diversions!
As we began to work on his interview he sent me the story below. I cannot improve on it by making it into an interview! So read Colin’s story in his own words! Don’t forget to comment and also visit Rafflecopter for a chance at the drawings!
Colin: I'll start by talking about how I found Jane Austen. First of all, my bio mentions that my first wife passed away from cancer. The year was 1995, and she was only 48. We had two sons, 11 and 15, at the time, and I suddenly had to assume all the responsibility for their care as well as holding down my job as an engineer. I also had things like bookcases filled with a mixture of her books and mine. Most of hers were oriented toward the home and family, but the exception was her beloved Jane Austen books. She had tried to interest me in reading them, but I have to confess that I found reasons not to do so. My interests lay more in science fiction, history, popular authors like Tom Clancy, and what are now called DIY books about woodworking, plumbing, electrical wiring, landscaping, etc.
As I slowly worked my way through the house, deciding what to keep and what to send to Goodwill, most of Margaret's books wound up being donated to the local library. I kept a selection, of course, like a few cookbooks, medical references, vacation books for the trips we hadn't taken, etc. And I kept her Jane Austen books.
So the years crept by. It was more than five years before I finished cleaning out her side of the closet or could even contemplate that terrifying challenge of dating when you're fifty years old. But finally friends at church pushed me to break out of my shell, and I wound up meeting Jeanine, who's four years my junior. She was the only lady I met who had not been previously married and so badly wounded by her divorce that she was never going to trust a man again. I liked most of them, and I came to understand why they felt the way they did. They had been betrayed, and the wounds went to deep.
But Jeanine was different. She and I both shared the same Christian faith, and she had truly forgiven her first husband, deciding that she was not going to let that betrayal define the rest of her life. She had a son and a daughter from her marriage, but, though she was now a single mom, she didn't feel as if she was finished being a mother. On our first date, she informed me that she was in the processing of adopting an orphan girl from China. I nodded, not worried in the slightest. I had been surprised to find, after my own children were born, that I really liked kids. Besides, I knew Jeannie and I were just going to be friends . . .
Hah! Anyway, I re-married in early 2002, and settled down to raise a daughter who didn't speak a word of English with my beloved and warm-hearted wife. And it was the combination of Jeanine's warm heart and Margaret's beloved Jane Austen books that led me to go back to the bedroom one Sunday afternoon when Jeanine was visiting with her daughter in the living room. I had noticed that one of the cable channels had a BBC mini-series made from a Jane Austen book called -- wait for it! -- Pride and Prejudice!
I had messed up the time and caught it part way through, so I was trying to figure out what was going on in that version of P&P -- the one made in 1995 with Colin Firth as Darcy. By the way, did I mention that I've always had a sneaking liking for a few movies that are referred to as Chick Flicks? Not all, by any means, but I really liked You've Got Mail, An Affair to Remember, and a few others (couldn't stand Sleepless in Seattle, though. Too far fetched and too dependent of Deus Ex Machina coincidences).
So, at the end of the mini-series a couple of hours later, there I was wondering what had taken place before I tuned in. I suppose I could have gone out to the video store and rented it (we still had video stores back in 2003-2004), but instead I dug out Margaret's copy of Pride and Prejudice and read it cover to cover.
THEN I went out to the video store.
They didn't have the 1995 mini-series, but they did have one from 1980 with David Rintoul as Darcy and Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet. Later on, a couple of weeks later, I ordered the 1995 version from Amazon and watched that one also. But I'm one of the few Pride and Prejudice fans who prefers the 1980 version to the much more popular 1985 version.
Anyway, while I was churning through Austen's other novels, I picked up and watched the other miniseries (except for Northanger Abbey). But I also got to wondering about all the gaps in Pride and Prejudice. For example, Darcy disappears after Hunsford and doesn't reappear until he and Elizabeth meet at Pemberley. I wondered what happened when Austen didn't focus on him, and I did some online searches to see if there was any information about that (at the time, I didn't realize that everything that Jane Austen wrote (and still exists) was contained in six novels). In doing those searches, found several novels by other authors on Amazon with something to do with the Pride and Prejudice characters. I also stumbled across Jane Austen fanfiction.
At the time, I didn't realize what fanfiction was! I found Darbyshire Writer's Guild, Firthness.com, and Hyacinth Gardens. I found a number of novel-length fanfiction that was quite good. Of course, I found a bunch that wasn't all that interesting. And I started to wonder whether I couldn't do something along that same line.
One thing I might mention is that I did quite well in English when in high school and tested into Honors English in college. Most engineers don't really care for the subject, but I was fortunate to have some really good (and demanding!) instructors who taught me the elements of writing. During my career as an engineer, I wound up writing a LOT of specifications, proposals, and reports, but that experience was, I thought, more in the area of technical writing. I wasn't at all sure that I could make a story interesting in the Pride and Prejudice world. But I came up with an idea of changing one of the critical points in P&P in order to see what happened. It was a very slow process to get going, but eventually I had everything finished, and started to post A Most Civil Proposal on Hyacinth Gardens.
The early chapters were well received, and several of the people who commented on my postings offered to "Beta Read" for me. Naturally, I had to have the concept explained to me! It sounded too good to be true, because I was still finding typos and contradictions and out-and-out blunders in what I had written. Those beta readers were invaluable to me in reaching the end of that story.
I published several other fanfiction efforts to generally positive reactions, and several people started to suggest I ought to look for a publisher. I wasn't at all inclined to listen to that well-meant advice. I was still working as an engineer, married to Jeanine, and we had adopted another daughter from China. I was busy, busy, busy, so I knew -- KNEW! -- that I didn't have the time to pursue that will-o-the-wisp, even if by some miracle I could write well enough to sell my novels. I was familiar with several writers who had moved from fanfiction to published authors, and I didn't think I was as good as they were.
By 2011, I was in my early sixties and still busy, but my business had taken a downturn. I knew it was a chancy time for a senior engineer who made a high salary. Sure enough, one day in June, me and 500 of my "closest friends" were informed our services were no longer needed.
But I was fortunate. I got a good separation agreement and was able to take early retirement. It was a shock to my ego (for about eighteen hours!), but I soon realized it was a blessing in disguise. Even better, I was contacted early the next year by Meryton Press, who asked if I would be interested in publishing "A Most Civil Proposal." By that time, I wasn't as busy as before, and AMCP had been finished for years. So I agreed, and set to work reading through it and getting it ready for publication. "This is going to be a piece of cake," I thought to myself.
Well, for the millionth time, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Now I had to learn to work with professional editors! That's another story, but I now realize how necessary a good editor can be. Perhaps not to every writer, but certainly to me, and I'm grateful for the way they helped me develop.
So there's how I got started writing in the world of Jane Austen. A lot of it was pure chance. As far as the future, perhaps I need to spread further afield, because I may have mined out Pride and Prejudice of interesting variations. But I still have some other ideas that are semi-plotted and might be developed in an interesting manner, so I'll see. That's for the future.
A Covenant of Marriage Blog Tour Media Kit
A Covenant of Marriage—legally binding, even for an unwilling bride!
Defined as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or compact, a covenant is commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. But it can also apply to a marriage as Elizabeth Bennet learns when her father binds her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Against her protests that she cannot be bound against her will, the lady is informed that she lives under her father’s roof and, consequently, is under his control; she is a mere pawn in the proceedings.
With such an inauspicious beginning, how can two people so joined ever make a life together?
By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics.
I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.
I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife's beloved Jane Austen books after her passing. One thing led to another, and I now have four novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019). Two of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposal and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets.
I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats. My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).
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Blog Tour Schedule:
11/06 More Agreeably Engaged
11/07 From Pemberley to Milton
11/08 Half Agony, Half Hope
11/09 My Love for Jane Austen
11/11 Diary of an Eccentric
11/12 Darcyholic Diversions
11/14 Margie's Must Reads
11/15 Austenesque Reviews
11/16 My Jane Austen Book Club
11/17 Babblings of a Bookworm
11/18 My Vices and Weaknesses
Hey Colin, does your engineering background influence your writing in any way? I have heard good things about Hyacinth Gardens but never found it in time; It's too bad it is gone. Thanks to Barbara and Colin for this interesting post!ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by, Kelly. The short answer is that my fiendish English high school teachers probably affect my writing more than my engineering background. They were even tougher than my Honors English instructors in college! They really taught me how to write (not professionally, of course, since I've had to learn a lot since starting to write Austenesque fiction. However, in my previous novel, Perilous Siege, there were some places where my engineering experience at least gave me an idea of what kind of advances might be possible in Regency times. And my experiences as a Marine during the Vietnam era also affected the writing of the Prologue dramatically, since that part of the story takes place in the modern world (actually more than a quarter century in the future, before my present day observer finds himself waking up in a field at Pemberley).Delete
I am also one of the few who prefer the 1980 version, there are just too many miscast characters in the 1995 series that for me make it unwatchable (after viewing it twice just to make sure)ReplyDelete
But the 1995 version has Colin Firth as Darcy! That seemed to be enough for all the ladies who jumped on me on one of the Hyacinth Garden commentary discussions!Delete
But I do agree that the 1980 version is truer to what Jane Austen wrote than the 1995 version. In fact, I just watched the 1980 version earlier this summer on Netflix. Even David Rintoul as Darcy was, I think, closer to Austen's Darcy than Firth, though Rintoul was certainly not as physically attractive to modern eyes. And I really liked the Great Dane he had walking with him! I LOVE Great Danes!
Colin, that was touching and truly open. I admire you for talking honestly about and sharing some of your life with us! That was excellent and I, for one, thank you.ReplyDelete
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Thanks, Janet. I've mentioned part of what I wrote at other times, but I didn't think it would be that interesting to others. But Barbara asked that question at what started out to be an author interview, and my fingers were living a life of their own. I expected Barbara to pick out a few salient points and then ask more questions, but she decided to go ahead as is.Delete
Thank you for sharing how you came to love Jane Austen. I have been told that your books are wonderful so this title is definitely going on my wishlist.ReplyDelete
Thanks, darcybennet. I hope you enjoy it!Delete
Barbara, thanks for hosting me on your blog and also for all your hard work on maintaining it. Good luck on your own writing endeavors also!ReplyDelete
I enjoyed your personal story of becoming a JAFF writer. And I appreciate that you took such a difficult topic - a woman being a man's property.ReplyDelete